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The form of letters forces relationships

“Because letters make their address to audience explicit,” writes Elizabeth Hewitt, “they emphasize reciprocity:”

indeed, the letter’s address works to make reciprocity all but ineluctable. For example, the conventional superscription to a letter that qualifies the reader as “dear” asserts an intimacy between reader and writer that the reader is goven almost no space to resist.[^Hewitt6]

David M. Stewart adds to Hewitt’s point:

The same is true for the debt incurred by receiving a letter, which had to be answered or risk injuring the sender. Character aside, salutatory endearments and the debts incurred by receiving letters projected family authority directly beyond the home.[^Stewart186-87]

[^Hewitt6]: Elizabeth Hewitt, Correspondence and American Literature, 1770–1865 (2004), 6. [^Stewart186-87]: David M. Stewart, “Working Away, Writing Home,” in The Edinburgh Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Letters and Letter-Writing (2016), 186-87.

This post first appeared on In Propria Persona, please read the originial post: here

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The form of letters forces relationships


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